Little by little

“Wir schaffen das!” “We can do this!” Chancellor Merkel was calmly telling her fellow citizens in a news conference in August 2015 that Germany could welcome the 800,000 migrants knocking at their door. She was reviled by some as “a betrayer of the people” but most supported her and made generous efforts to make the changes in their lives needed to respond. One man, whose sons had grown up, welcomed three teenage brothers from Eritrea and devoted himself to their education as if they were his own children.

open_bibleSo despite some negative voices of alarm and fear it is not difficult to believe that such welcoming attitudes will bring untold benefits both to the country and the persons who open their hearts to strangers. Many are realising that the crisis reminds us that we are all migrants, even if for some of us our people moved a long time ago. John F Kennedy, described America as “a nation of immigrants” and the brew from that particular pot produced a wildly energetic and inventive people.

I have just seen a moving video, Fire at Sea, about the migrants reaching Lampadusa. It films the calm and ordered life of the people of the island and moves back and forth to the migrants who have lost everything and whose hold on life itself is crumbling. No one is “interviewed”. Everyone is just observed. No one is telling us how to react or what we “must” do. Just seeing people is enough. They have been through terrible experiences but they quietly disembark and are helped by the Italian coastguards. Angela Merkel reminded Germans of the first article of their Constitution: “Human dignity shall be inviolable.”

This crisis is posing an old question to us; “Who is my neighbour?” We would prefer not to have to answer the question. It draws us out and disturbs us. The author of the Book of Wisdom describes the whole world as “a grain of dust” in God’s sight and the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich sees the universe as no larger than a hazelnut. Such language might frighten us into thinking we are insignificant. But the point of these authors is the opposite. God is the “lover of life” and “loves all that exists and holds nothing in abhorrence.” He is far bigger than anything we can imagine and his plan for creation far exceeds anything we can dream of. So, it makes no sense to close our doors and think we can live secure behind walls of our own making.

Surveying, in our mind’s eye, the multitudes that risk everything in setting out for Europe, we can sense a new round in the ancient journeys of migration enriching our world. It is painful for those who travel and for those who welcome them. But we can see humanity “little by little” achieving its purpose.

30 October 2016                     Sunday 31 C

Wisdom 11:22-12:1                2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2                    Luke 19:1-10


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